A qualitative study into cancer survivors' relationship with nutrition post‐cancer treatment

Niamh O'Callaghan, Pauline Douglas, Laura Keaver

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In Ireland, one in every 25 individuals is living with and beyond cancer, placing survivorship care at the forefront of strategic planning and service requirements. Several unmet needs of cancer survivors were identified in the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026. Further reports from national bodies have highlighted how these unmet needs, including those of a nutritional nature, have not been prioritised. In Ireland, little information is available on how cancer diagnosis changes cancer survivors' perceptions of food and nutrition. Thus, this study aimed to describe cancer survivors' relationship with nutrition. Survivors who lived on the Island of Ireland and were at least 6 months post-treatment were eligible. Five semi-structured focus groups and two individual interviews were conducted online (n = 20). Focus groups and interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. The cohort was mostly female breast cancer survivors (n = 12) with an average age of 51.3 ± 12 years. Emergent themes illustrated how a cancer diagnosis appears to motivate cancer survivors to immediate positive dietary changes. Many new dietary introductions were in line with cancer survivor recommendations, while dietary supplement use and some nonevidence-supported actions were revealed. A minority of participants continued their original dietary intake prior to their diagnosis. Participants reported the impact of treatment-related side effects on their relationship with nutrition. The participants emphasised a desire to receive dietary advice from health professionals while undergoing treatment and survivorship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-414
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number2
Early online date27 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Apr 2023

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© 2023 The British Dietetic Association Ltd.


  • Nutritional Support
  • Nutrition
  • Diet
  • Cancer Survivorship
  • Food Choice


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